Cul­ture of Color

Bhutan is known for its rich and col­or­ful cul­tural her­itage which is the main at­trac­tion for tourists.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Zu­fah An­sari

Bhutan also known as the King­dom of Bhutan lies in the eastern Hi­malayas nestling be­tween In­dia and China. Lo­cated in the heart of the Hi­malayas, Bhutan is a land-locked coun­try. The form of gov­ern­ment is as unique as the coun­try it­self; it is one of the only demo­cratic monar­chies in the world with a par­lia­men­tary form of gov­ern­ment. Bhutan has been a mem­ber of the United Na­tions since 1971. It is a found­ing mem­ber of the South Asian As­so­ci­a­tion for Re­gional Co­op­er­a­tion (SAARC).

The coun­try is a mem­ber of 150 in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing the World Bank and the IMF and main­tains strong eco­nomic, so­cial and mil­i­tary re­la­tions with In­dia. Other than In­dia, Bhutan has diplo­matic re­la­tions with more than 52 coun­tries and the Euro­pean Union. By a long­stand­ing agree­ment, In­dian and Bhutanese cit­i­zens can travel to each other's coun­tries with­out the need for a pass­port or visa; how­ever, they need to carry their na­tional iden­tity cards with them while trav­el­ling. Bhutan is one of the world’s small­est economies, mainly based on agri­cul­ture, forestry and tourism. The cur­rency used in Bhutan is the ngul­trum, which is con­nected to the In­dian rupee. The na­tional lan­guage is Bhutanese, one of 53 lan­guages in the Ti­betan lan­guage fam­ily.

Pop­u­larly known as the Land of Thun­der Dragons, Bhutan is fa­mous for its rich and unique cul­tural her­itage and has be­come one of the main at­trac­tions for tourists. Bhutanese tra­di­tion

is deeply steeped in its Bud­dhist her­itage. Its in­dige­nous pop­u­la­tion com­prises the Druk­pas. Three eth­nic groups: the Snar­chops, the Nga­lops and the Lhot­sam­pas make up to­day’s Drukpa pop­u­la­tion. Most of them are pre­dom­i­nantly Bud­dhist, while Hin­duism is the sec­ond largest re­li­gion in the coun­try. The Bud­dhist cul­ture has and still plays an im­por­tant role in the cul­tural, so­cial and so­ci­o­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment of Bhutan and its peo­ple. Though the ur­ban set­tle­ments have moved to­wards a mo­dem form of liv­ing, the ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion still lives in small ru­ral vil­lages where small fam­ily farms are the prime form of life and farm­ing, the most com­mon oc­cu­pa­tion.

Most of the Bhutanese eat their food by hands, keep­ing up with a sim­ple and tra­di­tional lifestyle. Their di­ets are rich in meat, poul­try, dairy, grain and veg­eta­bles. The food is first served to the head of the fam­ily fol­lowed by oth­ers; the en­tire fam­ily sits cross-legged on the wooden floor while eat­ing to­gether. Due to mod­ern­iza­tion, the trends for the tra­di­tional Bhutanese are chang­ing; the clay pots used for serv­ing and eat­ing pur­poses have been re­placed by ce­ramic bowls. Though the tra­di­tional eat­ing habits are still a part of the Bhutanese ev­ery­day lifestyle but is most com­monly prac­ticed in the ru­ral ar­eas of the coun­try, com­pared to mod­ern cities.

Bhutanese tra­di­tional dresses both of men and women are the most dis­tinc­tive and unique gar­ments that have evolved over thou­sands of years. The na­tional dress for men is the gho, a knee-length robe tied at the waist by a cloth belt. Whereas, women wear an an­kle-length dress, the kira, clipped at the shoul­ders and tied at the waist. These dresses pro­vide a unique iden­tity to the peo­ple of Bhutan; they also de­pict the true rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Bud­dhism, which is re­flected in the Bhutanese lifestyle.

Bhutan’s rich­ness and cul­tural di­ver­sity is fur­ther en­hanced by the many elab­o­rate and col­or­ful re­li­gious fes­ti­vals that are cel­e­brated through­out the coun­try. Each vil­lage is known for their unique fes­ti­val as ev­ery vil­lage or­ga­nizes a dif­fer­ent fes­ti­val in which peo­ple from other vil­lages and ar­eas

Bhutan’s rich­ness and cul­tural di­ver­sity is fur­ther en­hanced by the many elab­o­rate and col­or­ful re­li­gious fes­ti­vals that are cel­e­brated through­out the coun­try.

come and spend time with their fam­i­lies and friends. These fes­ti­vals also serve the pur­pose of con­nect­ing fam­i­lies with one another and dis­tinct rel­a­tives, liv­ing in dif­fer­ent ar­eas. One of the most widely known fes­ti­vals is the an­nual Tshechu, mean­ing a re­li­gious fes­ti­val. As the Tshechu be­gins, the vil­lagers and the gen­eral public dress in their finest clothes and con­gre­gate at their lo­cal tem­ples and monas­ter­ies.

Mar­riages are sim­ple af­fairs and are usu­ally kept low-key. How­ever, elab­o­rate rit­u­als are per­formed for last­ing unions be­tween the bride and the bride­groom. Af­ter the re­li­gious cer­e­mony, par­ents, rel­a­tive and friends give tra­di­tional of­fer­ings to the new­ly­wed cou­ple. Love mar­riages are com­mon in ur­ban ar­eas, but the tra­di­tion of ar­ranged mar­riages is still com­mon in the vil­lages.

The birth of a child is al­ways wel­comed in Bhutan. Ex­tended fam­ily and guests are dis­cour­aged from vis­it­ing dur­ing the first three days af­ter the birth. On the third day, a short pu­rifi­ca­tion rit­ual is per­formed af­ter which visi­tors are wel­comed to visit the new born and the mother. For the Bhutanese, chil­dren as the pro­gen­i­tors of the fu­ture and there­fore they do not dis­crim­i­nate about the sex of the child. Tra­di­tion­ally var­i­ous gifts are of­fered, rang­ing from dairy prod­ucts to clothes and money.

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